After many years of courtship and marriage, my husband and I developed a sexual shorthand that, when the kids were little and we had no time and even less opportunity, came in handy. Foreplay that was once steamy and drawn out was distilled down to a simple, “Hey, the kids finally fell asleep! Quick, meet me on the couch!” followed by eight or nine sweaty minutes of politely taking turns getting our jollies.
As time paced forward in the familiar, uneven clip of parenthood, we found ourselves experiencing less and less of our intimate shorthand. Then one day, while looking at the calendar, I realized that it had been more than a month since we had had any sex at all.
As I stood there staring at the calendar, I realized that it was time to have a sex talk with my husband. Clearly, this was slightly more than just a dry spell; it was marital laziness. We needed to fix this. But I wasn’t quite sure where to begin or what to say.
My mind began to lay the outlines of what I wanted to talk to my husband about—things like the importance of intimacy and physical affection. I wanted to plead a case for being more selfish with our precious little free time, but as I began to think out the right words to say, my insecurities floated closer to the surface of my forming words.
Was the reason we didn’t have sex anymore because I had gained weight? Middle age was coming, and motherhood had been rough on my exterior. While my husband was growing more distinguished with age, I was becoming more frumpy and soft. My ass was no longer high and tight, but more like squishy and wide. Gray hairs had begun to poke out in ungraceful ways around my face, on which laugh lines and crow’s feet were forming. Was I still attractive?
A nagging insecurity can quickly spin into imagined betrayals that simply are not there, and an irrational twist of logic immediately turned to worries that my husband was having an affair. Was that possible? For the better part of the day, I went back to this place of fear and calculated his work hours, commute time, money spent and the fluctuation in our savings account, but each time I came up short on any proof of potential infidelity.
Was the reason we didn’t have sex anymore because that is just what happens in a marriage after a decade? Was this the Seven-Year Itch? I had heard of this phenomenon that declares a marriage essentially dead after a prolonged period together. There were only so many new things we could talk about and new experiences we could have as a couple. Flirting becomes a chore. The business of running a home and building a family takes over, and marriage slides further down the list of priorities almost without notice. A divorced friend once told me that after nearly a decade, it would be a miracle if my marriage was still alive, no one was cheating, and the words “take a break,” “separation” or “divorce” were not mentioned.
But it had been that long.
Her dismal outlook on marriage gave me pause. I was ready to jump-start my marital libido before her words came true. Should I buy porn and see-through outfits? Was it finally time to retire my frumpy mom attire and trade in the ponytail for layers and highlights? How much of this dry spell was even my fault?
The lowest common denominator in this funky marriage problem was that while it may be true that my husband and I were swamped with the details of our family life, we still loved each other. And when we remembered to, we even desired each other. We still had small moments of sexual innuendo during the most boring of conversations. During the morning rush to get out the door, my husband still on occasion slapped me on the ass while giving me a peck on the cheek.
While I thought through all the things I wanted to say to my husband about how much I missed our intimacy, how much I craved just to be held and looked at and touched by him, I could not help but feel just a little bit ridiculous and needy. Wasn’t this chapter of our lives supposed to be busy and difficult? I finally decided that, foolish or not, silence would be the same as lying by omission. Our private life shouldn’t take a backseat to the business of parenting. I didn’t care if this was the Seven-Year Itch. I didn’t care what my divorced friend said about marital successes and failures. I didn’t care if I sounded weak. But I did care that my marriage climbed back up to the top of the list of priorities.
So, after thinking all of these things and feeling the fullness of urgency and awkwardness, I sat my husband down and took a deep breath.
“Honey, we need to talk.”